The Health Benefits of Potassium Bicarbonate

Are you getting enough potassium in your diet?

In This Article

Potassium is an important nutrient that your body uses to form muscle, regulate the function of the nervous system, and keep a steady pH level. Certain health conditions or medications can cause potassium levels to become too high, which is called hyperkalemia, or too low, which is called hypokalemia.

In cases where blood potassium is too low, a supplement of potassium bicarbonate may be given to bring the potassium level back to normal. However, it should be taken with caution. Too much potassium can be harmful. Learn more about both the benefits and risks of potassium bicarbonate.

Health benefits of potassium bicarbonate
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell 

Health Benefits

Potassium is an electrolyte that is important to several body functions. Most people can receive enough of it by eating a varied diet that includes foods containing potassium. However, there are some conditions or medications that may cause potassium levels to drop. When this is the case, a potassium bicarbonate supplement may be prescribed by a physician.

Hypokalemia

Low levels of potassium in the blood can lead to health problems. For that reason, a supplement with potassium bicarbonate may be given. The supplement will raise the level of potassium in the blood and reverse the hypokalemia.

Low potassium levels may lead to health problems and symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue, diarrhea or upset stomach, and irregular heartbeat.

Low potassium levels may need to be checked periodically via a blood test to see if the level has come into a normal range. Since potassium performs a range of vital functions inside the body, it is necessary to ensure your potassium levels are normal.

Preserving Bone and Muscle

A diet that is lower in fruits and vegetables and higher in grains and protein can contribute to bone and muscle loss, especially in people older than 50. One study showed that a supplement of potassium bicarbonate could help slow down the loss of calcium and other nutrients that support good bone health and prevent damage.

Kidney Stones

Some preliminary studies show that supplements of potassium bicarbonate and potassium citrate may help in dissolving certain types of kidney stones. However, note that there are currently no large studies confirming this effect—using potassium bicarbonate to treat kidney stones is not done on a regular basis.

Stroke

Some studies have shown that a diet that provides enough potassium may help lower the risk of having a stroke. In one study on women over the age of 50, the risk of stroke, ischemic stroke, and even the risk of death was lowered for those with the highest levels of potassium intake through diet.

One study performed on men over the age of 40 showed similar results. Men who had diets containing high levels of magnesium, potassium, and calcium had a lowered risk of stroke. Supplementing with potassium may also have the same effect—however, there is currently not much solid evidence to support this claim.

Possible Side Effects

Potassium bicarbonate is associated with the potential for certain adverse effects, some of which may be serious and may be reasons to stop taking it. Talk to a physician about the risk for side effects, if any serious side effects occur, or if less serious side effects become bothersome. 

Potassium bicarbonate increases potassium levels and it may be unsafe to take it along with other products that contain potassium. High potassium levels (hyperkalemia) is a health concern and can cause serious side effects.

Adverse symptoms that can occur with potassium bicarbonate include:

  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Tingling in the hands or feet
  • Vomiting

Some of the potential side effects that can occur with potassium bicarbonate are serious. It’s recommended that if any of these side effects occur, the supplement is stopped and that the person experiencing the side effects get in touch with a doctor right away. These more serious symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Black stool
  • Blood in the stool
  • Excessive weakness (especially in the legs)
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Trouble breathing

Drug Interactions

There are several different medications that could interact with potassium bicarbonate. Talk to a doctor about taking potassium bicarbonate if you are also taking one of the following medications:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These include Accupril (quinapril), Aceon (perindopril), Altace (ramipril), Capoten (captopril), Lotensin (benazepril), Mavik (trandolapril) and more.
  • Beta-blockers including Betapace (sotalol), Blocadren (timolol), Bystolic (nebivolol), Cartrol (carteolol), Coreg (carvedilol), Corgard (nadolol), Kerlone (betaxolol), Levatol (penbutolol), and more.
  • Diuretics (also called water pills) including Aldactone, Aldactazide (spironolactone), Diuril (chlorothiazide), Dyrenium, and more.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including aspirin Advil, Midol, Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve, Naprosyn (naproxen), Indocin (indomethacin), Lodine (etodolac), and more.
  • Steroids including Cortef, Hydrocortone (hydrocortisone), Decadron, Hexadrol (dexamethasone), and Deltasone, Orasone (prednisone).

Food Interactions 

Some people use salt substitutes in their food in order to lower their overall salt intake. However, this could be a potentially dangerous interaction with potassium bicarbonate as well.

Salt substitutes may contain high levels of potassium, and so they should not be eaten while also receiving supplemental potassium bicarbonate. 

Dosage and Preparation

It is recommended that adults eat a diet that provides 4.7 grams per day of potassium (the level increases to 5.1 grams for women who are nursing an infant). Potassium bicarbonate supplements come in an effervescent tablet that should be dissolved in about 4 ounces of water. The tablet should dissolve completely and you should drink it immediately.

You should drink another glass of water after taking the supplement. For those who have stomach upset when taking potassium bicarbonate, try taking it with a meal in order to prevent this effect. The full course that is prescribed by a doctor should be taken; it should not be stopped suddenly unless your doctor advises you to do so.

What to Look For

High levels of potassium can cause weakness, especially in the legs. Severe abdominal pain, confusion, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, and bowel movements that appear black or contain blood can also be symptoms of high potassium.

If these symptoms occur, stop taking potassium bicarbonate and seek the advice of a doctor right away. It is best to talk to a doctor when taking any drug in order to get guidance on whether potassium bicarbonate is appropriate, and which supplements are best for you to take.

A Word From Verywell

Potassium bicarbonate may be prescribed to treat low potassium or, in unusual cases, other conditions. This supplement should be used carefully and under the supervision of a doctor because taking too much potassium can lead to life-threatening heart complications. However, when used correctly, potassium bicarbonate can reverse a low potassium level.

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Article Sources

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  • Adebamowo SN, Spiegelman D, Flint AJ, Willett WC, Rexrode KM. Intakes of magnesium, potassium, and calcium and the risk of stroke among men. Int J Stroke. 2015 Oct;10(7):1093-1100. DOI: 10.1111/ijs.12516

  • Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, et al. Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation Lowers Bone Turnover and Calcium Excretion in Older Men and Women: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2015;30:2103-2111. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.2554

  • Seth A, Mossavar-Rahmani Y, Kamensky V, et al. Potassium intake and risk of stroke in women with hypertension and nonhypertension in the Women's Health Initiative. Stroke. 2014;45:2874-2880. DOI:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006046